How to Start an Elevated Garden
Have you been itching to start a garden, but something about traditional, in-ground planting is holding you back? Take your garden goals to new heights with an elevated raised bed!
Maybe you only have a balcony and need a self-contained garden, or you just don’t want to bend over all the time to tend to your crops. Whatever is pushing you to start an elevated garden, it’s an easy way to grow and offers tons of benefits over in-ground gardening.
Tools You May Need
Each garden is different, but these are the products usually required to start a new elevated garden:
- Elevated raised bed and tools for assembly
- Raised bed liner
- Soil, compost, and organic granular fertilizer
- Seeds and/or seedlings
- Gardening gloves
- Potting trowel
- Optional: raised bed cover
- Optional: self-watering kit
- Optional: trellises, grow cages, and other vertical supports
Decide the Type of Garden You Want
If you’re here, it means you probably have this figured out already! Whether you want to grow food, herbs, flowers, or all of them, make sure they can thrive in an elevated raised bed.
You will find the most success with growing plants that are native to your area or fit within the climate. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s online map can be useful for identifying the best plants for your region.
Some tips to help you decide what to plant:
- Elevated beds allow you to grow more food in a smaller space through the “square foot gardening method”. The fertility and structure of elevated planters can support more plant life, so seeds can be placed closely.
- Flowers and vegetables can be grown together and provide mutual benefits. Nasturtiums add nitrogen in the soil, are edible, and will cascade over the edge of the bed, taking up little space and bringing tons of color.
- Add flowers like lavender and bee balm to attract pollinators and create a healthy garden. Marigolds are pest-repellent and keep other bugs away.
- Always grow plants with the same needs (soil, water, and sun) in the same elevated planter.
Choose Your Elevated Raised Bed(s)
Once you know what you’re planting, it’s time to pick a planter! Not all elevated raised beds are created equal, so it’s important to weigh the different factors:
- Depth: roots will be restricted in shallow planters.
- Height: these are supposed to be an ergonomic gardening solution, so make sure it’s the right height for your neck and back.
- Material: cedar wood is standard because it’s naturally rot-resistant. Metal, powder-coated steel, and heavy gauge plastic are also popular, but if you’re growing food, make sure the planter material is safe.
- Drainage: roots will rot if water doesn’t drain. Check if your planter comes with drainage holes or drill some before filling.
- Weight: elevated beds are heavy. If it stands on legs, it needs to be strong enough to support the weight of moist soil and mature plants loaded with fruits.
Pick a Location
Most plants need at least 6-8 hours of sun. It’s best to put your elevated raised bed in a spot with full sun access. Some plants thrive in shade, like ferns, primrose, or hydrangeas, so pick a less sunny area for these. We recommend putting your raised bed near a hose or rain barrel for ease of watering and close to the kitchen door.
Prepare the Soil and Raised Bed
The first and most important step is to line the raised bed. This contains the soil while letting excess water drain to keep the roots from rotting. The liner will also prevent the soil from coming in direct contact with the planter, which stops any potentially harmful contents of the planter material from seeping into the soil and rotting the wood bed.
If your elevated raised bed doesn’t come with a liner, popular choices for making your own include:
- Landscaping fabric (recommended)
Plastic sheets, vinyl sheets, or rocks/pebbles shouldn’t be used because they prevent water drainage and could shed harmful chemicals into the soil.
After your liner is in place, add in your soil. Just like in-ground growing, the secret to successful elevated gardening is in the soil. Elevated planters aren’t built to hold clay-based garden soil, so fill them instead with a mixture of compost and potting soil. Combine 2/3 potting soil with 1/3 compost and throw in a few handfuls of organic granular fertilizer. If you’re growing cacti or succulents, use coarse builder’s sand instead of compost.
Plant Your Seeds or Potted Seedlings
It’s finally time to start growing! There are different techniques for each type of plant, so follow the instructions on your seed packets, from the local nursery, or from your garden-savvy neighbor. If you’re growing from seeds, it’s helpful to make a seed-starting schedule to avoid frost and keep the various types on track.
Whether you plant seeds or young plants, it’s crucial to keep them moist during their early days. Water is essential as seeds germinate and plants take root.
How often you water after they’ve rooted depends on your soil, rainfall, and humidity. If you’re unsure, dig your fingers 4” down and water if it’s dry.
Add Nutrients and Accessories During the Season
Just like any container garden, elevated gardens have the same issue of essential nutrients draining out of the soil every time you water. To keep the soil fertile, mix in granular vegetable fertilizer throughout the season.
As your plants grow, add a trellis, grow cage, or other vertical support. These also enhance your garden aesthetic and act as privacy barriers from neighbors!
Winterize Your Elevated Garden
One of the best parts of elevated gardening is you can keep it all contained through winter. Simply harvest your crops and remove any other plant debris. Keep the soil in the bed and you can reuse it next season – just cover the bed until you’re ready to plant in the spring.
When you’re preparing to start your garden up again, always revitalize the soil with fresh compost and turn it to keep it active. Then you can get planting as soon as the frost is over!
Check Back With Us for More Tips to Make Gardening Easy!
There are many raised bed options for every type of property, and we will continue to expand our collection to bring you the best choices. Sign up for new product email updates and we will deliver them right to your inbox!
Last updated: 8/2/2022